This atmospheric but thinly sketched tale from ‘The Orphanage’ writer Sergio G Sánchez has the grieving Marrowbone kids starting afresh in a dusty pile in ’60s America. Their mum has died and their violent dad is locked up back in England… or is he? The oldest sibling (George MacKay) is charged with keeping anxieties at bay as the house gradually reveals its own skeletons.
Throw in a spooky mirror and a mysteriously bricked-up loft and there are almost too many ways the story could deliver frights. Sánchez, though, struggles to find them, with underwritten characters draining his shocks of their emotional payoff. The siblings’ only consistent characteristic is that they’re all weirdly dedicated to each other (‘We are one’ is not the motto of children you’d want your kids playing with).
The Spanish writer-director is on a much surer footing crafting the film’s two contrasting settings. Outside the clan’s four walls are white-picket suburbia and striking seaside vistas; inside, it’s all creepy corners and shadows. The Marrowbones’ sense of being displaced and unwelcome pervades, and the cast (including Heaton, Mia Goth and Matthew Stagg) gamely capture the melancholy mood of haunted outsiders. True scares, though, are much thinner on the ground.